Kumite shutai 組手主体 is the sixth characteristic of Shorinji Kempo.
One of the special characteristics of Shorinji Kempo is: “Paired practice is primary” (kumite shutai). This means two people pairing up and practicing, aiming for mutual improvement in techniques while cooperating with each other. There are two reasons to practice in pairs:
The first is a technical reason. In solo practice one cannot learn the feel for timing and spacing that are necessary to overcome a moving opponent. Shorinji Kempo is made of defensive techniques based on overcoming opponents when they make their attacks. Thus, one person is always playing the attackers while another acts as the defender. Practice is conducted with the roles of attack and defence being traded off. without an attacker, the defence cannot be practiced. If the two do not trade roles, they cannot mutually develop their defensive techniques. If one wants to get better, the nature of requires that a cooperative relationship arise.
The second reason is based on the idea of building cooperative relationships through practice. Kaiso used to strongly criticize competing for victory or defeat. He stated his reasons in the following way: “To live in a world of winning and loosing, one must not recognize anyone beyond himself. Worrying about losing one’s position, even juniors are made into enemies. Without pulling down seniors from their positions, one cannot rise oneself. Not a single friend can be made.“
Kaiso warned that win/lose competition escalates into a way of thinking based only on oneself. Not only did he warn about it, but in his words: “Shorinji Kempo aims to fight against that very tendency.” Our method of doing so is in the nature of practices based principally on paired practice. The starting point of the paired practice idea seems to have been at the Northern Shaolin Temple in China, which Kaiso visited. He explains his memory of seeing the wall painting at the temple picturing Chinese and Indian monks smiling while practicing martial art together. Based on this memory, Kaiso made the paired practice idea.
This idea grew into a whole approach to practice for development as a human being. Through the companionship of each taking the others hand and each applying techniques to the other, you build up a trust through your own efforts, and it ends in giving your partner a sense of trust in yourself as well. Through this kind of practice conditions, we recognize that the self exists, but we also reaffirm the existens of so many others different from ourselves – a truth of human society, which we all seem to know but forget with such ease.
This is kumite shutai.